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UMaine System plans for a 'traditional, on-campus college experience' this fall

"I am really excited that I will be getting the senior year I hoped for," UMaine Farmington junior Ally Pickarts said

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine System (UMS) is preparing for a return to normal campus life for the fall 2021 semester, the system announced Wednesday.

“Maine is moving forward responsibly,” UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy said in a release. “We are going to start planning now so we can provide our students and community members with a traditional, on-campus college experience and as much normalcy as possible.”

New guidance was released Wednesday for all universities in the UMaine System, outlining protocols for general operations on campus this fall. 

While masks, social distancing, testing, and various other public health precautions will remain in place across the campuses, UMS said their hope is to give students a “traditional, in-person college experience” this fall. Those safety measures will also continue for the remainder of the spring semester and commencement, UMS said. 

UMS spokesperson Dan Demeritt tells NEWS CENTER Maine that science and public health guidance in place in the fall will guide them on these safety practices, "but we believe that we will be able to adhere to those limits and while providing a traditional or near-traditional college experience."

"We will always be driven by the science and civil authority, but we can reasonably look forward to an opening in the fall, which is far more normal than that which we've experienced over […] in the last full year," Malloy said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. 

UMS said Malloy is meeting with students and encouraging students to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which the System said is “a key step in the return to normalcy.” 

However, Demeritt said they are not currently mandating students get vaccinated "because the vaccines are approved through the FDA's Emergency Use status."

UMS is making the voluntary COVID-19 vaccination effort for employees a top priority, providing education and accommodations for employees getting their vaccine during work hours.

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and chairs of the UMS Vaccination Planning and Partnership task force recently got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from a UMaine senior and nursing student, Stephanie Nichols.

“COVID-19 vaccinations are important for our overall health and community well-being,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “Knowing that all of our adult-aged students, faculty and staff will be eligible for a vaccine by July has us planning confidently for a rich, active and in-person campus experience this fall.”

UMS held a press conference with university leaders and students Wednesday at noon. 

Watch the full press conference here:

This story will be updated.

Student reactions

Ally Pickarts, a junior at the University of Maine at Farmington from Colorado with a double major in creative writing and English: “We have all worked hard and had to make sacrifices to be safer during the pandemic. I am really excited that I will be getting the senior year I hoped for.”

Rajay Maragh, a first-semester senior at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and president of the Student Activities Board from Jamaica, who hopes to attend Maine Law next year: “Next fall will be my last semester at UMFK to enjoy all that the campus and the community have to offer. I have continued to make progress on my plan to go to law school throughout the pandemic, but it will be great to finish college under normal circumstances.”

Paige Thibodeau, a junior at the University of Maine at Augusta and a Mitchell Scholar from Medford, Maine who is in the Veterinary Technology Program at the Bangor campus: “The University of Maine at Augusta made my college dreams come true for me, but COVID has been hard on all of us. I cannot wait to come back in the fall for my senior year for the traditional college learning and working experience that brought me to UMA in the first place.”

Jocelyn Royalty, a sophomore at the University of Maine at Farmington from Connecticut who is a double major in creative writing and psychology: “I came back to Farmington this year because the university is so committed to the safety and success of its students. If there is anywhere in the country where students can count on a traditional campus experience next fall, it is going to be at our universities in Maine.”

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